The Almogavars

The Almogavars are generally portrayed as having been an army of savage Spanish mercenaries who famously fought both in the Christian Reconquest of Spain, across the Mediterranean in Sicily and as far afield as Constantinople (now Istanbul). Their notoriety largely stems from the 13th Century and the so called "Catalan Revenge" which took place in Adrianopolis after the assassination of their then leader the ex-Knight Templar Roger de Flor.

13th Century Spanish Painting showing knights fighting with swords

The Almogavars origins predate these acts by several Centuries. They where originally frontiersmen from the Pyrenees mountains of Northern Spain who fought to resist the Muslim invaders ( The name Almogavar is derived from the Arabic al-Mugavari ) . Rather than being controlled by a particular King or Lord they were ruled over by the Almogavar Council in which all members had their say.

They were an army of professional soldiers initially recruited from across Aragon and Catalonia. Mainly foot-soldiers who wore leather rather than armour and carried javelins and short swords similar to those used by the Romans. The famous battle cry "Desperta Ferro" (Wake up Steel) came from their custom of striking their weapons against the ground as they went into battle.

The Almogavars played an important part in the Reconquest of Spain from their origins in the 9th Century to the conquest of Majorca and Valencia in the 13th Century . This was followed by the invasion of Sicily and later campaigns against the Turks. When Roger de Flor was assasinated in 1305 they turned against the Duke of Athens beating the Byzantine armies in the battles of Gallipoli and Apros. These acts led to a period of Aragonese rule in Athens.

This was to be the Almogavars' last great victory as King James II of Aragon and his successors were unable to make the most of what they had achieved. It has been speculated that it was because of this  failure that the historians of the time chose to portray them as savage mercenaries rather than patriots.

Medieval History